Beddington 4th XI vs Dulwich, 2020-08-22

40/40 game. Beddington won the toss and fielded first. Dulwich 207/7. Beddington 110/9 – scorecard

It was a very windy day, played initially under cloudy skies which brightened up a bit later in the afternoon. There were a few spots of rain, one of which suddenly got heavier from one ball to the next and I decided to take the players off after that ball – which had, unfortunately seen a batsman dismissed. But before we’d even made it as far as the boundary the rain stopped and so we went straight back to it. A rain stoppage not resulting in any time lost – that’s probably the most unusual thing I’ll see this season. That had been rain earlier in the week but while there was a bit of green on the pitch it was baked hard. I took bowler’s end duties throughout. One of the Dulwich bowlers complained at the start of his spell that his landing spot had been too broken up during the previous innings, but it looked fine to me, the ground was solid. He opted to consistently land slightly to the right of it (closer to the wicket), but he seemed to perform well and if his performance was degraded by landing a couple of inches to the right of his normal spot then I’d love to see him at his best! His new landing spot put him very close to hitting the protected area during his follow through, and he may well have actually done so a few times, but it wasn’t to any significant extent (he didn’t block my view of the batsman and wicket at the other end) and if I police that rigorously I can’t look for LBWs, so I let it go.

Dulwich’s innings got off to a rocky start, losing the first two wickets for just eleven runs and the third for just fourteen more, due to a combination of excellent bowling and quick fielding. Unfortunately once the two opening bowlers finished their spells they couldn’t hold it together. Between them those two allowed just 44 runs from the first 16 overs, an average of less than 3 per over between them. The third wicket went with 70 runs on the board and the fourth with 147 as the rest of Beddington’s bowlers all went for over 5 an over, at least some of which was because of consistent fielding mishaps.

Beddington’s innings didn’t start well, with the first wicket falling in the first over – a wicket maiden. I’d turned down an LBW appeal the previous ball – if my memory of what happened 24 hours ago is correct I’d only turned it down because there was just a leeeetle bit of doubt in my mind about whether the ball would have hit the stumps. But one ball later there was no doubt. The next wicket didn’t fall until the 11th over, but where you would normally expect the second wicket partnership to score at a nice steady rate these two just couldn’t. There were two more maiden overs before the second wicket fell for just 21 runs scored. Even so, that slow scoring mirrored Dulwich’s in their innings. Dulwich scored 44 from the first 16 overs, Beddington scored 45. But Dulwich’s subsequent bowlers allowed far fewer runs than Beddington’s had, helped by enthusiastic fielding. They were especially good at chasing balls down (and hence saving runs) which would, when Beddington was fielding, have gone for four. Beddington’s last two batsmen put on 36 runs between them, but by then it was far, far too late.

I was much happier with my performance today, and I think I made only one mistake. Early on in Beddington’s innings I wasn’t sure if one of their batsman was quite making his ground before turning round for a second run, so I made sure to keep an eye on him. It wasn’t long before I spotted a short run. Only by an inch or so, but an inch out is an inch out, so I signalled “short run”. Or rather, I thought I signalled short run. I actually signalled “5 penalty runs to the fielding side”. There was no acknowledgement from the scorers, who were no doubt confused as there was no reason for penalty runs, so I yelled “one short” at them, thinking that they either couldn’t see the signal or didn’t understand such a rare signal. We got the right result in the end, but I need to revise my lesser-used signals!

Malden Wanderers vs Beddington 4th XI, 2020-08-15

40/40 game reduced to 30/30. Beddington won the toss and fielded first. Malden 190/5. Beddington 80 from 20 overs – scorecard

Thankfully it wasn’t as desperately hot as it had been for the past week (34ยบ C and 75% humidity is inhuman!) but it was still warm and humid. Recent rain had left everything bright green, even a little bit of green on the pitch. It had also left the ground a bit soft and towards the end I was getting concerned that it was turning muddy and slippery where the bowlers’ feet were landing but thankfully it only deteriorated so far. In that respect I’m glad we only played 50 overs instead of the scheduled 80. There was little bounce in the pitch. We were on Malden’s second field, which is quite small. It shares a boundary with their main field, something that I am not keen on, as no-one likes getting an unexpected bonk on their bonce from the game next door when fielding. I took the bowler’s end throughout. The weather forecast was for rain later in the afternoon, and depending on which forecast you believed it would be either a few light showers or a torrential downpour that would leave the surface unplayable, so the captains and I agreed beforehand to reduce the game to 30 overs a side to increase the chances of getting a result. As it happened the rain held off and we would have been able to go the full length anyway with perhaps just a little drizzle. Hindsight is a wonderful thing! Aside from my minor grumbles above about the field, I like the Malden club. They were very friendly and most importantly they have a decent beer selection.

Malden’s batting was dominated by a young man who carried his bat, and was desperately unlucky to not make his century when their innings finished with him on 99 not out. Beddington were terribly hampered by some injuries while fielding. One young player had to retire from the game very early – I think it was in the second over – when he did himself a mischief while chasing a ball to the boundary. They were down to fielding with ten men for a couple of overs while one of the accompanying parents changed into his whites to come on as a substitute fielder. Then after the fifth over, another young player, who had come into the game with a knee injury but told everyone he could play, had to be carried from the field. So again, down to ten fielders temporarily while another substitute got kitted up. Add to all those woes the fact that Malden’s side batted well and Beddington’s fielding was leaky and they dropped a couple of catches.

Beddington’s innings started with Malden bowling two wicket-maidens, both of the openers getting out for nowt. One of those was down to a third injury. Another of Beddington’s youngsters got hit on his sternum by one of the few balls that bounced. Very painful and we paused for a couple of minutes so he could get his breath back. But whether it was because he had lost his confidence or because of the painful bruise, he was out for a duck a couple of balls later. I hope he returns to form for the remaining games of the season as he is usually a good batsman, great fun to watch. Only three of Beddington’s ten batsmen (the player with the knee injury from the first innings came out to bat but did not score) got any runs, those runs coming from 16 fours and 9 singles, as Malden did an excellent job in the field. Malden’s innings by comparison had been far more balanced with 5 sixes, 21 fours, 11 twos and 32 singles.

I am not happy with my own performance. My head wasn’t in the game as we began and I know that not only did I do my old trick of forgetting to signal byes, I even forgot to signal some early boundaries despite entering them on my run counter. Thankfully the scorer put them all in the book! I had to give two batsmen out when they didn’t walk. One was LBW, he was very cross with me but the ball landed on his toes dead in front of middle stump and would have gone on to hit it about a third of the way up. The other was a player caught behind, off the tiniest of edges. I clearly heard it, but he looked disbelieving at me before heading off. I turned down a few LBW appeals, one of which was perhaps a bit contentious. It was certainly close but I couldn’t be sure the ball was going to hit the wicket so couldn’t give it. One for the TV umpire when that becomes available at this level! The rest of the dismissals needed no input from me as the batsmen walked. I did get irritated at one of the player-umpires who was playing with his phone in between balls and even at one point got so engrossed in it that he didn’t change ends for a new over until I yelled at him. Bad. Naughty. I shall Have Words the next time he accompanies me, although I should really have had a quiet word with him in between overs, so bad naughty me as well.

Finally, I had an Umpire Groupie! One of my father’s cousins lives within spitting distance of the club so I told him there was a game on and invited him and his wife to come and watch. Afterwards I went to their house for dinner and a refreshing litre of tea, where I moaned lots about how much my feet hurt and how hard it was to stand up again after finally sitting down.

Beddington 4th XI vs Sutton, 2020-08-01

40/40 game. Beddington won the toss and fielded first. Sutton 150/8. Beddington 129 from 33 overs – scorecard

My third game of the season, and the first to be completed, was played under changing, hot conditions. I was the only umpire, being accompanied by glamourous assistants who took square leg duties while I was at the bowler’s end throughout. It started with bright sunshine getting cloudier throughout, but the rain, such as it was, just a few light drops, held off until the Lager Innings. The outfield was scorched dry, with the ball running away fast, but the square had been watered. The strip we were using had a tinge of green to it, but was baked hard.

Early on in their innings Sutton were scoring fast, at one point looking like they might make 200, but after a high-scoring opening, Beddington’s bowlers pegged them back. It turns out that the young lad who I erroneously gave out last week can also bowl, getting 3 wickets for 10 runs conceded from his 4 overs.

Beddington’s innings started a bit wobbly, with the first two wickets falling with just 11 runs scored, but a 71 run partnership for the third wicket seemed to get things back on track with some fine batting that I was very much enjoying watching (being the umpire really does give you the best seat in the house) and I was rather annoyed when they both got out in quick succession, and the rest of the wickets fell for little profit. Aside from that one good partnership the highest score was eight. Sutton had a boy from their under-13s side who finished off most of the tail. His bowling was wild, but in his 4 overs bowled he got 4 wickets for 13 runs conceded. His feet were all over the place, often landing a long way back from the crease, and he gave away a lot of extras, but when he landed right he got wickets – results count for more than style.

After last week I had decided I was too lenient regarding wides, so was quite a bit stricter today. There were still some grumbles from batsmen for me not giving them, but that was their fault for moving towards what would have been a wide ball as I noted last week.

After my LBW mistake of last week I wonder if I perhaps veered too far in the opposite direction. I only gave two (one per team) despite many appeals. A few of those appeals were of course the usual ridiculousness were a fielder at point screams for a wicket, and a couple had the whole team go up including those who had a good view of what happened. There were a couple I only turned down because I couldn’t be sure that the ball hadn’t hit the bat – they were otherwise dead straight deliveries, but most I turned down either because I thought they were missing the stumps or had not hit the batsman in line with the stumps. Without the benefit of a suite of cameras, microphones and computers I just can’t tell if I’m getting it right or not, the best I can do is aim to be consistent, and I think I was. At some point I may sign up for a couple of hours with the techno-wizardry at the MCC indoor academy. When I do I am prepared to be terribly embarrassed!

Spencer CC vs Beddington 4th XI, 2020-07-25

40/40 game. Spencer won the toss and fielded first. Beddington 128/9 from 38.3 overs when the match was abandoned due to rain – scorecard

My previous match at this ground was almost exactly a year ago. That was rainy too, with the match starting late and being reduced to 30 overs a side. This time we started on time but the forecast was never good. The last several overs of the first innings were played in persistent drizzle, we eventually came off when it turned heavier, and reached the shelter of the pavilion as the heavens opened. The rain didn’t take long to return to drizzle but by that point the outfield was drenched, and I was concerned about the new ball in those conditions if we’d started the second innings. As it was, the captains agreed between them to abandon the match as it looked highly unlikely that we’d be able to restart in time for Spencer to get the required minimum 20 overs to bat.

I think I made one big mistake, giving one of Beddington’s openers (a young lad who is a very good batsman) out LBW. The ball was certainly going on to hit the stumps, but he was adamant that he had got an edge with the bat, as was his fellow opener at the non-striker’s end. But I didn’t hear it, so I gave him out. He objected strongly but his colleague told him to clear off and respect the umpire. From what I overheard from some fielders later, I shouldn’t have given him out as he did get an edge on it. I apologised to him later when we left the field.

The batsmen were also, during one particular bowler’s spell, surprised that I wasn’t giving wides. Several of his balls were marginal calls and if they’d been any wider I would have given them. The one that he did get wide enough to call, I didn’t because the batsman had moved towards it (law 22.4.1).

And I made one small mistake – I forgot about the new regulation for this season that the ball must be cleaned every six overs. I was reminded of this just before the drinks break at 20 overs, so for the second half of the innings I took some wipes out with me and did that.

I am cursed, 2020-07-19

My first match of the season was supposed to be today, at Ashburnham, who were playing Catsfield. There was a bit of rain around in the morning when I left London, heading to my parents place for a pre-match lunch, but that cleared up. After lunch I headed off to the ground … and the heavens opened. It absolutely bucketed down. But not for long, and so we got started only a little bit late, with me doing bowler’s-end duty throughout. After a grand total of 4.2 overs I took the players off as it had started raining again, and the bowlers’ landing points were already turning muddy and slippery. After a further 20-odd minutes of hanging around everyone agreed that even if the rain did stop the ground wasn’t going to dry out enough so the match was abandoned.

Then on my way home a couple of hours later I saw there was a game on at Blindley Heath so I stopped to watch. When I arrived the batting team were on 117 for 5, although chasing a target of over 200. Twelve minutes later they were all out.

Clearly I have offended the gods and am cursed to only see a few minutes of cricket this season.

On a better note, however, I don’t appear to be terribly rusty. I remembered to give all the right signals, even for byes which I forgot an awful lot of the time last year.

Return to play!

The government and their medical maestros have given the go-ahead for recreational cricket to restart this weekend. I know from Umpire Twitter that some leagues are starting straight away. The Surrey Championship, the lower reaches of which are my cricketing home, is I think being a bit more sensible. They’re restarting in two weeks time. The ECB have promised to publish guidelines for clubs, and (I assume) updated playing regulations tomorrow, which is really pushing it for clubs to get ready in time for this weekend.

So, I’ve got until the 25th to make sure that my kit still fits, that I haven’t lost my ball counter, and so on. I ought to check that tonight actually, so I’ve got time to order replacements, and I should also look for a friendly match between now and then so I can get my eye back in.

Return to play?

The latest from the ECB is that they plan to start the professional season on the 1st of August, although the exact details of how the various competitions will be structured remains to be decided. I would expect that red-ball professional domestic cricket will have spectators allowed into the ground, but limited overs cricket might not, especially T20 as that attracts large enough crowds that making people keep their distance would be Challenging. Counties may, I suppose, limit attendance to members only.

No word from the ECB on the community game, but the Surrey Championship in which I normally umpire (as a club umpire, not on the league panel) is planning for a week earlier, on the 25th of July. It will not be a full league season, with no promotion and relegation, and they will only organise games for the 1st and 2nd XIs. My own club, Beddington, runs five league sides, so the 3rds, 4ths and 5ths’ fixtures look like they’ll be left to clubs to organise friendlies against near-neighbours. I normally umpire for the 4th XI (the 1st XI generally has umpires appointed by the league, and the club already has two other umpires who do the 2nd and 3rd XIs) so I should at least have some friendlies this season – and given the age of many umpires, who as a result may be anxious about exposing themselves to filthy disease-ridden players, I may be umpiring up a division or so sometimes.

Continuous Professional Development, pt 3: conflict management

The most recent CPD video from the ACO was on conflict management, something that has only really come up a couple of times in my games, one of which came about because of an error on my part, not dealing with poor behaviour before it got too much. This area of umpiring would have, I think, been covered in the training course that I was due to go on at the end of March which was cancelled.

My approach to the whole game is that most of the time I am a spectator, and as much as possible should be left up to the players. That includes dismissals – if someone is out then I will only signal and give them out if the batsman doesn’t walk. That is, my default style is in the terminology of that video “avoiding”. In the error above, I avoided for too long. However, on the one second occasion for conflict in one of my games (I gave someone out caught when he was adamant that he wasn’t, and he argued) I went to “collaborating” by asking my colleague at square leg for his opinion. In the end my colleague (and it should be noted that he was a batsman temporarily standing at square leg) hadn’t had a clear enough view to say either way. If he had been sure I was wrong I would have changed the decision, but the dispute was settled with everyone being reasonably content by me telling the players to hold on while I consulted him, and then confirming my decision.

As a cricket umpire as opposed to an official in a more fast-moving sport I’m lucky that I will almost always have the time for collaboration with my umpiring colleague, but also I have the time to explain decisions to players. This means that I can be both assertive and co-operative, which I think is the ideal.

Continuous Professional Development, pt 2: run-outs

The practical exercise in the most recent CPD video from the ACO on run-outs was a very good one. I didn’t know about the flash-lag effect, but I got 16 out of 18 correct anyway, with one wrong in either direction. There was one more where I thought the batsman was probably out but I wasn’t certain, so gave not out – correctly. My positional judgement varied around the actual frame the batsman was in by a frame or two either way, with about a third of my correct decisions being spot on.

I think that’s a pretty good result, but I shall revisit the exercise in a couple of weeks to make sure it wasn’t a fluke.

I hope they do one on LBWs soon, that’s the area of umpiring that I struggle the most with.

Continuous Professional Development: communication

In the absence of cricket and hence no opportunity for my usual post-match Maoist self-criticism on this blog, I’m looking forward to improving my umpiring through the training materials that the ECB ACO are beginning to put out. The first one on umpire communication was a good start, although I was amused at their picking Nigel Owens out as a bad example of match official to player communication. The point being made was that lecturing like a school master – which Nigel does – is generally a bad thing. But it works well for Nigel, for reasons that are also pointed out in the video. Different example needed I think!

When I was reviewing my overall performance at the end of last season communications was one of the things I picked out as needing work. I was thinking mostly of my pre-match communication with team captains and club officials, but there were also a couple of things in that that I need to improve a bit in my on-field communication.